Why is intellectual property important for start-ups?

Intellectual property (IP) can be confusing and challenging for a startup because you are likely wearing many different hats to help the business take flight.
You will probably need to build infrastructure, develop products, and market your new business. It is, therefore, easy to overlook intellectual property and wait until later to worry about it, but this could be harmful to your business.
Intellectual property is a valuable asset for your startup; it constitutes the lifeblood of your business and enhances your commercial value.

Protecting your intellectual property safeguards and protects your business from infringements and copycats relating to your specific trademarks or inventions.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is any unique creation with legal protection against unauthorised use by a third party.

IP describes intangible assets belonging to an individual or a company and the legal protection from external implementation or use without consent.
Intellectual property can include inventions, images, symbols, and artistic and literary works used in business.
Ideas do not count as intellectual property, but anything that results from the idea counts.
Owning intellectual property prevents other people from copying or stealing:
  • Your inventions
  • Your brand or product names
  • The product look or design
  • Things you produce, make, or write


What are the 4 types of intellectual property?

Intellectual property can fall into any of the following categories:

1. Patent

Patents apply to industrial inventions and processes and are the most common type of intellectual property protection.
They protect new inventions like machines or tools, the designs and how they work from unauthorised use.
It gives you the exclusive rights to manufacture, sell or use your invention. For your creation to qualify for a patent, it must be new, have a level of innovation, and be directly applicable in the industry. The invention must be something that can be used or made, not just a modification of an existing item.

2. Copyright

Copyright relates to recorded literary or artistic works. It stops people from claiming ownership of your work or using it without permission.
It gives you specific rights to the work, prohibits unauthorised use, and allows you to take legal action in case of plagiarism or infringement.
You cannot copyright names or slogans, but you can claim copyright on the recorded version of your ideas.
You can copyright a range of works such as:
  • Artwork: Logos, maps, technical drawings, sculptures, digital art, paintings, and photography.
  • Literary works: Computer software, manuals, website text content and scripts, leaflets, commercial documents, articles, newsletters, and song lyrics.
  • Musical works: Sound recordings and notation or score.
  • Dramatic works: Dance choreography and plays.
  • Cable programmes, broadcasts, video footage, and films.
  • Typographical arrangements of publications, periodicals, or magazines.
  • Sound recordings that include other copyright works.

3. Designs

Design rights apply to the physical product and its appearance, specifically the materials used, colour, texture, shape, contours, and ornamentation.

The overall concept should be unique to qualify for either of these design rights. Registered design (Ⓡ): It protects your creation at the national or world region level against substantial similarities.

Unregistered design (TM): These rights safeguard your innovation against exact replicas under the common law.

4. Trademarks

A trademark can be a symbol, design, slogan, word, or name that identifies your business or product.
Its primary purpose is to protect your distinctive brand and prevent confusion in the market. It also identifies the specific organisation or product, and you can use it if it is not already in use.
It must be unique, non-distinctive, and straightforward and cannot describe related services or goods.

Why is it important to have intellectual property?

Your start-up has been created as a result of an innovative idea, one of the most valuable assets of your business. It is important to have intellectual property because it:
  • Distinguishes your business from competitors.
  • Provides revenue through licensing and sales.
  • Offers customers something different.
  • Forms an essential element of branding and marketing.


Can intellectual property rights be useful for start-ups?

Intellectual property rights can be very useful for startups in several ways, including:

  • Providing competitive advantage: Securing intellectual property is critical in gaining a competitive edge, especially for a tech-based startup.
  • Stability and investor appeal: Intellectual property rights indicate business security and stability, which investors like to see.
  • Protection from infringement and legal action: Protecting your intellectual property rights will help determine whether your creation already belongs to someone else.
  • Creating a presumption of ownership: Once you secure the rights, even the courts will presume that you own the property, and you can sue other businesses for infringement.
  • Protecting your material from unauthorised use: Once you gain the rights, other companies cannot unfairly profit from your intellectual property.

What are the benefits of intellectual property for start-up companies?

The benefits of intellectual property for startups include the following points:

  • Turn ideas into profitable assets: Intellectual property can help you convert your ideas into valuable products or services. For example, licensing your copyright creates a steady income from royalties.
  • Enhance your startup’s market value: In case of a merger, acquisition, or sale, protected intellectual property can raise your startup’s value.
  • Market your products and services: Intellectual property such as logos, trademarks, and product designs are essential in creating a business image. They can help differentiate and promote your products and services to your customers.
  • Raise or access business finance: You can monetise intellectual property through licensing, sale, or as collateral for financing. Intellectual property can also be beneficial when applying for government funding.
  • Increase export opportunities: You can use your intellectual property, such as designs and brands, to market your business abroad, seek franchising opportunities, or export patented products.

IP strategy ideas for start-ups

Here are some strategies you can implement to protect your intellectual property and safeguard your startup from unfair competition.

  • Document terms such as share ownership, roles, salaries, decision-making, and other relevant matters in a founder agreement if you have a co-founder.
  • All contributors should assign all their intellectual property to the business and have written agreements showing that the company owns all the rights.
  • Evaluate your intellectual property and determine the type of protection you need.
  • Ensure your name and logo are available for commercial use.
  • Have a cost-effective patent strategy.
  • Consider having a global patent.
  • Be careful when using open-source software.
  • Be vigilant when hiring new staff, especially from competitors.


Protecting your intellectual property will help to safeguard your startup from litigation and position your business better for suppliers, partners, investors, and other stakeholders.

At Ackroyd Legal, no matter the situation, we have the skills and expertise to help you reach a favourable solution. If you would like further information on how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us today on 020 3058 3363 or email enquiries.sa@ackroydlegal.com

Are you worried about a legal matter? Feel free to fill in the form below.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.